Avery Research Center Receives Grant to Support Oral History Project
The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston has received $100,000 from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation’s new Broadening Narratives grant. Broadening Narratives is a groundbreaking collections initiative that shines a light on underrepresented stories. The foundation has awarded a total of $579,000 to 10 organizations in Chicago and South Carolina’s Lowcountry, including Coastal Carolina University’s Joyner Institute for Gullah Studies, Drayton Hall Preservation Trust, Harbor Historical Association/South Carolina Maritime Museum and the Penn Center.
“We are grateful to the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation for giving us the opportunity to show how our stories should be told – through the words and lenses of local artists and activists,” said Tamara Butler, co-principal investigator of the grant and executive director of the Avery Research Center. “Charleston’s black culture and history is complex, multifaceted and intergenerational. Therefore, these elements guide the research team’s approach to documenting activism related to Black lives in this city. I hope this work will grow us as historians, artists, educators, organizers and, most importantly, as members of the community.
The Avery Research Center will use its grant to fund the Documenting the Arc Oral History Project (DTA) to further its mission of preserving and documenting the black experience of South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Avery staff recognizes the need to actively engage in collecting stories and documentation of the current civil rights movement, and Documenting the Arc is an attempt to do so. The project has two parts: video oral histories and a community submission portal.
“What I learned from the Documenting the Arc project is not necessarily the power of the story, because as a student of history I already knew that stories were important to the human experience,” says Joshua Parks, a former graduate assistant at the Avery and current director and producer for Cedar Wolf Media, who is pursuing a master’s degree in history from CofC. “I have learned the power of Black-led institutions, organizations and media in creating platforms and processes to own their historical narratives. The Documenting the Arc project serves as an example to all who interested in this type of work.
Avery engaged Cedar Wolf Media with historian and community advocate Millicent E. Brown to conduct and make accessible video oral history interviews with people who made the Call for Justice between 2014 and 2020. The project begins by focusing on the formation of Black Lives Matter. Charleston in late 2014 through the local George Floyd protests and civil unrest that marked the summer of 2020, highlighting the period between the murder of Walter Scott and the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church. Selection criteria include Millennial, Gen Z, and veteran activists and organizers who have advised and actively participated in grassroots protests and organizing efforts during the specified time period. The interviews will be accessible via the Lowcountry Digital Library (LCDL).
Since interviews are limited, the Avery has also partnered with Cedar Wolf Media to create a submission portal for members of the wider community. The portal will allow individuals and organizations to share their news, poems, photographs, protest signs, unique songs or anything they feel illustrates the movement, their stories or those of their loved ones, friends and members. from the community. Individuals can submit an interest form to contribute to the community submission portal.
The Documenting the Arc collection, including video interviews, transcripts and items collected through the submission portal, will be available to the public once archivists have processed the documents.
“This project is important in telling the story of black activism by those who have actively participated in the work. Through the interviews we conducted, we were able to document the work of activists and gain a better understanding of how organizations work and the values and concerns of black people in Charleston,” says Aaisha HaykalCo-Principal Investigator of the grant and Head of Archives Services at the Avery Research Center.
The Avery Research Center Digital Classroom will host a virtual event on Wednesday, January 26, 2022 at 6 p.m. titled “Avery Archive Highlight: Documenting the Arc Oral History Project.” Participants will learn about the oral history project and ways to participate and support the effort. Pre-registration is required. In addition, a recording of the event will be available on the Avery Research Center YouTube channel.
For more information about the Documenting the Arc Oral History Project or the Digital Classroom event, visit the Avery Research Center website or call 843.953.7608.